2013 - 119 minutes
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Written by: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt
Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Melissa Leo
Olympus Has Fallen is a better Die Hard movie than the last couple of Die Hard movies, so that’s something I suppose. The idea of a group of terrorists overtaking The White House seems preposterous – and probably is – but watching the siege in this film it seemed at least plausible. If you have a plane and a dedicated force on the ground and could execute the plan with precision in a few minutes what could stop you? Likely common sense and overwhelming American military force, but maybe not. In the movie it’s possible and that’s all that really matters.
The hostile takeover occurs a year and half after a personal tragedy befell President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and led to the reassignment of his trusted friend and head Secret Service guard Mike Banning (Gerard Butler). Luckily, at the time of the attack, Banning works right across the street at the Treasury, so he’s able to spring into action by shooting as many bad guys as possible amid the chaos and yelling helpful advice to civilians like “get down!” and so on.
The assault, and the movie as a whole, doesn’t pull any punches. The attack is brutal; people are graphically mowed down in the streets, suicide bombers carryout their duty on Pennsylvania Avenue and White House security is relentlessly rushed. While the madness is going on outside, the president, several of his high-level staffers and the South Korean premier and his security detail retreat to the safety of the underground bunker. Alas, the terrorists had infiltrated the inner-circle of the Korean leader and take control of the bunker and the president.
McClane, er Banning, makes his way into The White House and the game of dispatching henchmen while communicating with now-acting president and Speaker of the House Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) and various advisers in a situation room is on. It’s a good thing for all involved that Banning’s security codes all still work when he needs access to anything.
The terrorists he’s up against don’t make empty threats; when they threaten to kill someone, they follow through without a second thought, which is a clear change from the more watered down modern thrillers of this ilk.
The similarities with Die Hard – the gold standard - are a little too numerous and on the nose to not mention: an exploding roof/helicopter crash, escape via ventilation shaft and even a moment where the hero comes face to face with a bad guy without knowing it. That scene was really weak and seemed to be put in there as an attempted homage (the bad guy even lights a cigarette) but it’s just clunky. The whole of Dylan McDermott’s character really doesn’t make sense and doesn’t work at all – either in concept or execution.
The movie is a little bloated with a two hour runtime and it all wraps up fairly quickly and a little out of the blue with a climax that includes a red countdown clock. But, for the most part director Antoine Fuqua has crafted an effective political-thriller that keeps us invested.